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December 30, 2011

Game look: First downs

MADISON - Several Oregon players throughout the course of the past week have spoken on the importance of shutting Wisconsin down, namely Montee Ball, on first down.

By limiting the Badgers to little or no success on first down, Oregon's players and coaches feel as though it puts the Badgers in unfavorable positions for the rest of a given series.

Limiting a team to 2nd or 3rd and long means somebody is doing something right and the percentages are surely indicative of that.

That has actually been the case for Oregon throughout the course of its 11-2 season. The Ducks have converted 45 percent of their third down opportunities while only allowing opponents to muster a 38 percent success rate on third downs.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, has done even better on third downs throughout the course of the season. The Badgers have converted on a ridiculous 54 percent of their third down conversions. Opponents, on the other hand, move the chains just 38 percent of the time.

So the stark similarities featuring each team - - both allow opponents a 38 percent success rate - - will make for an interesting dynamic during the course of the upcoming Rose Bowl.

So many, including UW senior defensive lineman Patrick Butrym, have said a good offense is a good defense. By staying on the field, eating the clock, not turning the ball over and remaining methodical and productive, both offenses have a chance to take control of Monday's game.

Both have the ability to score quickly, but more so than either team's defense suggests, it will be the team that remains as close to turnover free that will likely win the game.

The battle of first down is only the beginning.

Wisconsin, like Oregon, has a very impressive running back. The only difference between Lamichael James and Montee Ball, other than the fact James is more of a speedster and Ball is more of a power back, is the motivation behind their next game.

Ball knows he could playing in his final game as a Badger and he wants to make up for UW's shortcoming of a season ago in the very same game. Remember, Wisconsin fell two-points short of tying TCU in the waning minutes of that game.

Ball has always said the motivation behind his bodily reshaping came from the runs he felt he should have broken a year ago in the Rose Bowl. He refocused his mind, he rededicated his ability and became one of the best backs to ever play in the Badger cardinal and white uniform.

That motivation will be on full display on Monday afternoon in Pasadena.

It's up to Oregon to stop it.


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